Pruning Overgrown Apple Trees

This video is about pruning overgrown apple trees.  This is not the way that you prune an apple orchard yearly.  The tree shown here has been pruned once in the last eight years and is quite overgrown.


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Here’s What You need to Know

When pruning overgrown apple trees, you do not want to prune them too much in one year.  Maybe 20 to 25% of the tree at an absolute maximum.  Take out the worst wood first.  The tree didn’t get overgrown in one year, so you can’t fix it all in one year.

Timing is Everything

The only time to prune overgrown trees like this is when they are dormant.  Dormancy is during the winter and early spring when the trees do not have leaves on them.  By cutting when they are dormant you will shock the trees less.

Pruning Overgrown Apple Trees - Before Pruning

Pruning Overgrown Apple Trees – Before Pruning

The Tools

The first thing to do is to make sure the tools are clean.  You can use rubbing alcohol, hand sanitizer, or a bleach and water solution to clean the tools.  You want to clean the cutting edge after each tree that you trim so you don’t spread disease.

Out with the Dead Wood

Dead wood and diseased wood is the first wood to be removed.  Dead wood is doing no good and can harbor disease and rot, so remove it back to living wood.  Cut out any and all diseased wood back to good healthy wood.

Crossed and Damaged Branches

Next up is removing any branches that are crossed over one another and those that are rubbing on another branch.  If there are any branches that are damaged and broken or cracked, now is a good time to remove them.

Open to the Heavens

The last thing to do is to thin the tree out.  I usually start with any branches that are aimed back toward the center of the tree.  What I look for is branches aimed out away from the center of the tree, thereby opening the center of the tree up to daylight.

Pruning Overgrown Apple Trees - After Prune

Pruning Overgrown Apple Trees – After Prune

More Techniques

There are a lot of other more advanced pruning techniques, like leaving branches that are aiming downwards or tying branches downward to get hormones right for fruit production.  If you tree is that overgrown, these advanced techniques are best left for another year when you get the other issues mentioned above taken care of.


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